Ten economic development programs in the South worth a look
The Greater Memphis Alliance for a Competitive Workforce
The Memphis region has taken an all-in approach to workforce development with the formation of the Greater Memphis Alliance for a Competitive Workforce (GMACW). The initiative -- which is the "lead initiative" of the Memphis & Shelby County Regional Economic Development Plan -- is already underway, with major private sector funding commitments. The program caught our eye immediately after the news broke that Dr. Glen Fenter was named CEO of GMACW. Fenter is a nationally recognized workforce development professional who was the president of Mid-South Community College for 22 years. Among other tasks, GMACW will create a pipeline of skilled workers that will match employer needs in the Memphis region.
TVA's Valley Sustainable Communities Program
The Valley Sustainable Communities Program is one of TVA’s community preparedness offerings. It assists communities in identifying and cataloging their sustainable assets and increasing their sustainability commitments. The economic development focus is to increase the community’s competitiveness when companies are looking to invest in new or expanded locations in the Valley. Sustainable economic development balances the need for economic growth with environmental and societal accountability. It ultimately offers benefits across a triple bottom line to ensure a healthy environment, a thriving community and economic prosperity. There are three levels of qualification for communities. These levels are based on the individual community’s sustainable efforts and their sustainable team’s meeting qualification components in the areas of preparation, economic, environmental and societal.
Georgia's High Demand Career Initiative
Here is another new workforce program in the South that looks promising. Georgia's High Demand Career Initiative (HDCI) is a product created by Gov. Nathan Deal. The initiative allows higher education officials in the state -- the University System of Georgia and the Technical College System of Georgia -- to hear directly from the private sector about what specific needs they have from a workforce perspective. Those include degrees and majors, as well as certificates and skill sets. There were 13 HDCI meetings held with Georgia business leaders last year, enabling educators to understand workforce assets in the state, as well as the shortcomings from the employer's perspective. The initiative is not a one-year event. It is designed to be a sustained effort to create a partnership of communication between workforce education and the private sector in Georgia.
Come Home, Louisiana
Louisiana Economic Development created the "Come Home Louisiana" initiative and ad campaign to encourage Louisiana natives currently living outside the state to explore job opportunities in the state. On the Come Home Louisiana website are several videos of residents who left the state, but later returned as a result of employment opportunities. The site encourages residents to share the videos over social media using #ComeHomeLa, and an e-postcard campaign for current residents has been developed to inspire friends and family to return to Louisiana. The site essentially gives residents all of the tools needed to promote Louisiana to those living outside the state. One postcard reads, "Louisiana, wish you were here," with "were" crossed out and the word "lived" inserted above it.
NASA and Space Coast EDC's technology alliance
In January, NASA and the Brevard County, Fla.-based Space Coast EDC announced a new strategic alliance designed to bring cutting-edge technology, resources and expertise to solve manufacturing and technology challenges across a wide spectrum of industries. From aerospace to the most basic manufacturing operations, the alliance will provide applied technology solutions to accelerate regional economic growth on the Space Coast. The initiative is part of NASA's national pilot program for Regional Economic Development and seeks to provide small and medium-sized manufacturers and technology-based companies with access to NASA's subject-matter experts, advanced technologies, and capabilities drawing on NASA resources both at the Kennedy Space Center and across the nation. The beneficiaries of the initiative are the hundreds of manufacturing and technology companies in Brevard County that have specific technical challenges.
The Kentucky Federation of Advanced Manufacturing Education (KY FAME) was created because Toyota realized the need to start replacing large numbers of retirees from its Georgetown, Ky., plant. So, together with Bluegrass Community and Technical College, they created a pipeline of skilled young people to fill the void. The program has been so successful that it has grown into what is now called the Advanced Manufacturing Technician program (AMT), including several additional manufacturers in the region. Students take most of their classes in a 12,000-square-foot classroom facility built by Toyota, called the Advanced Manufacturing Center. It emulates a modern manufacturing facility, and gives students practical opportunities to learn the skills they need to be successful. Students who enter the AMT program are sponsored by a member company. They attend classes two full days a week, and work for pay the other three days at their sponsoring company. School days are full eight-hour shifts, emulating the work day, and students complete the program in five semesters. When they graduate, students have earned an associate’s degree in Applied Science, 70 to 80 college credit hours and two year’s work experience. In addition to classes that build technical skills, AMT students take general education classes like math, humanities and public speaking. Fees for the program are paid while students are employed, so they end up owing no college debt when they leave.
Before President Obama pitched tuition-free community college for Americans, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam had already created the Tennessee Promise. Beginning with the class of 2015, students in Tennessee can apply for the Tennessee Promise scholarship, which will provide two years tuition-free education at a community college or technical school in the state. Tennessee Promise is both a scholarship and mentoring program. It will provide students a last-dollar scholarship, meaning the scholarship will cover tuition and fees not covered by the Pell grant, the HOPE scholarship or TSAA funds. Students may use the scholarship at any of the state’s 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology, or other eligible institution offering an associate’s degree program. While removing the financial burden is key, a critical component of Tennessee Promise is the individual guidance each participant will receive from a mentor who will assist the student as he or she navigates the college admissions process. In addition, Tennessee Promise participants must complete eight hours of community service per term enrolled, as well as maintain satisfactory academic progress (2.0 GPA) at their institution.
Designed by over 1,200 stakeholders, Accelerate Alabama is the economic development strategic plan for the state that was rolled out in 2012. The plan includes a competitive assessment of the state, targeted business sectors, strategic recommendations and project delivery. Accelerate Alabama identified 11 business sectors for the state to focus on, as well as recommendations or accelerators and related tactics, centering on three economic drivers: recruitment, retention and renewal. During the formation of the plan, there were nearly 500 meeting participants, 721 online surveys, 311 company surveys, 181 surveys of economic developers in the state, and 38 legislator surveys completed. University chancellors and the Alabama Community College System also provided input.
The Center for Advanced Film Manufacturing
The Center for Advanced Film Manufacturing in Martinsville, Va., is an innovative collaboration between higher education, economic development and one of the world's leading producers of performance-coated film, Eastman Chemical Company. The Advanced Film Certification Program was created to train future employees for advanced film manufacturing and related advanced manufacturing industries in the Martinsville and Henry County area. Through a 28-credit program, students will focus on applied math, mechatronics, industrial safety, problem solving, and customized performance window film classes. Students benefit from hands-on training with state-of-the-art equipment and summer internships.
Virginia Leaders in Export Trade
Exports from Southern states are setting records, and Virginia has a unique program assisting Commonwealth employers in selling their products abroad. Called the Virginia Leaders in Export Trade (VALET), this award-winning program assists companies throughout Virginia in expanding their international business. VALET offers a powerful combination of capital resources provided by the state along with professional services from expert, private-sector partners. Each year, up to 25 qualifying companies ramp up their global marketing efforts through this program. Companies graduate from the comprehensive, two-year business acceleration program with greater focus on the potential of export trade profits. On average, companies experience a 54 percent increase in international sales during and immediately following the program. Created in 2002, the VALET program now has 172 graduates.